Student Voices

Heller SID students are simply amazing. We believe that our program attracts people who are uniquely driven to pursue sustainable international development with a focus on people and the environment, in addition to the economy. Our students come to Heller with an already-impressive array of skills and experiences, from military veterans and humanitarian aid professionals, to Peace Corps members and local government officials. On this page we have collected student quotes, blog excerpts and stories, letting our students speak for themselves.

Enet Mukurazita, MA SID'19, from Zimbabwe, and Rigat Keleta, MA SID'19, from Eritrea, explain why they're passionate about girls' education and how their Heller education in sustainable international development will help them create change at home and beyond.

Edwin Pool, MA SID'17 (Mexico)

“I used to think that ‘sustainable’ was only about the environment and global warming,” says Edwin Pool. “However, this term is very broad and complex, encompassing many other elements—such as inequality, gender, education, management, policies and rights—and these embrace other elements, making them even more complex.”

Pool says he fell in love with the SID program immediately and through it has been studying indigenous rights, Latin American regional development and technological innovations that can be deployed for development. With a concentration in environmental conservation, a field that can be applied to every corner of the world, Pool has immersed himself in the SID program’s rich global scope.

“The SID program is very holistic and approaches problems from different directions, integrating the newest policies, laws and management plans and constantly developing a curriculum that copes with these problems,” says Pool. “And this program is very international, with many students from Africa, Asia and America, including Latin America. Since I like to learn about other cultures and share my culture, this was an important fact that drew me as well.”

After graduation, he’ll focus his efforts on working with international organizations, an approach that will allow him to see how global nonprofits operate and then appropriate their methods to transform local organizations from the inside.

“My next step will be to go back home and start doing projects and partner with local NGOs,” Pool says. “I live, feel, see and suffer problems that many of my people do. So I really want to make a positive change in my community. The SID program was created to change people’s lives for the better.” Read more about Pool in the Winter 2016 issue of Heller Magazine. 

Wafaa, Jennie and Shadi posing together

Wafaa Arbash, MA SID/COEX’17 (Syria), Jennie Kelly, MA SID/MBA’17 (United States) and Shadi Sheikh Sara, MA SID/COEX’17 (Iran), co-founders of WorkAround

"I was thinking about what could be done to help refugees and displaced people," said Wafaa Arbash, a Topol Fellow in Nonviolence Practice, who first came up with the idea for WorkAround while conducting her master’s research. "There are so many organizations doing a lot of good work to help refugees, but a lot of them focus on donating more and more aid, which is not a sustainable solution. I kept thinking about all of my friends and the people I know who left Syria, all of these people who are talented and educated and motivated to do something with their lives, but they’re stuck.

“At the end of the day, what really matters is economic empowerment. I just felt like this was where we had to help people. At the same time, I found that companies are always looking for cost-effective solutions to their online repetitive tasks and jobs. It’s expensive for them to hire someone here in the U.S. to do these jobs, so they outsource this work.”

She started talking to people in the Boston business ecosystem, asking if they’d hire these people to do jobs like photo tagging, data entry, translation and transcription. They said yes, as long as the price is right and the work gets done. Then she started to research and confirmed what she suspected: According to the U.N., 75 percent of refugees in the Middle East and Northern Africa can access 3G Internet or faster, and 44 percent have at least some college education. “That’s how this all started, by finding two problems that exist side by side and connecting them,” she says.

Arbash quickly teamed up with Heller classmates Jennie Kelly and Shadi Sheikh Sara and Brandeis undergraduate student Shai Dinnar ’18 at the 2016 Heller Startup Challenge. The team developed Arbash’s business idea into a more concrete plan, pitched it to a panel of judges and took home first prize. 

After a series of wins at Brandeis competitions, they secured a spot in the second round of judging at MassChallenge, a prestigious startup accelerator and competition located in downtown Boston. Of the 360 teams in round two, 128 moved forward as finalists, and WorkAround was one of them. Throughout their journey, the WorkAround team has navigated incredibly complex problems. From international banking regulations and currency to building an appropriate online platform, the group has tackled each issue — and they remain standing.

“Looking back over what we have achieved in less than a year, we’ve had some big wins,” says Arbash. Read more about WorkAround in the Winter 2017 edition of Heller Magazine. 

Tomesha Campbell, MA SID/COEX'19 (United States)

“I’m looking for ways to create the dialogue that’s needed between groups,” says Tomesha Campbell.

The Marine Corps veteran, who has been deployed to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, says her experiences in Botswana and Bahrain gave her insight into the development challenges many nations face.

In Botswana, for example, Campbell observed how a lack of basic resources such as water and electricity can lead to escalating conflict between nations and negatively impact the world’s most vulnerable populations. In Bahrain, the conflicts between Sunni and Shiite Muslims spurred her interest in helping disempowered communities make their voices heard without the threat of violence.

“I chose to come to Heller because of the international focus and the diversity,” Campbell says. “The connections have been the best part of my experience so far. It’s given me new perspectives of different places in the world I’ll never go. I’m taking into account different cultures and making sure I’m not being disrespectful or asserting my privilege as an American over different groups.”

As a student, Campbell has worked with a local organization to promote financial inclusion for underserved populations around the world, and hopes to focus her practicum on fostering difficult conversations between white supremacists and the rest of society. She also has a particular interest in women’s rights and empowerment, as one of few women to serve in the Marines. 

She decided to add the COEX degree to her SID degree because her experience in the military gave her a unique perspective on conflict.

“I think a lot of veterans are missing that community and humanity that they can’t always find in the civilian world,” she says. “Instead of feeling like they have to go back to the military, they could take those skills they have and apply them to a different context with different groups of people.”